Gov. Rick Scott starts second year in office with adjusted image, agenda
Rick Scott begins his second year as governor surrounded by savvier advisers, stalked by persistently dismal poll numbers and converted to spending a lot more money on schools.
What hasn't changed is Scott's determination to fulfill the mandate that put him in charge of the nation's fourth-largest state.
"In the end, it's all jobs," Scott said in a Times/Herald interview. "Jobs is what's going to change everything."
Narrowly elected in 2010 as an outsider with $75 million of his own money and no political experience, Scott has learned in painfully public ways that governing the state of Florida is complicated.
He backtracked on his biggest campaign promise to create more jobs than what state economists had predicted. The band of outsiders that followed him into power is mostly gone. And a state law enforcement agency is trying to find out why Scott's transition emails disappeared when, by law, they should have been kept.
Florida's unemployment rate has fallen by 2 percentage points, but it's still in double digits. At Scott's direction, lawmakers refused to raise taxes or fees to cover a budget shortfall — in contrast to 2009, when Republicans hiked taxes and fees by more than $2 billion.
Scott reorganized Florida's cannibalized job-creation programs, reduced state debt for the first time in two decades, began a gradual phase-out of the corporate income tax and forced public employees to contribute to their pensions, a change now the focus of a lawsuit by employee unions.
"Pretty much everything I ran on, we got done," Scott said.